Monday, February 15, 2010

Let BrazMia Tours get you to Brazil - Fun - Fun

Florianópolis is the state capital of Santa Catarina, located south of Curitiba and north of Porto Alegre. From those cities and São Paulo it's just a short flight of a bit more than an hour. The city of Florianópolis is located on both sides of a narrow strait separating the Brazilian mainland from the large Island of Santa Catarina, from which the state takes its name. Downtown Florianópolis, the airport, and all the attractions of interest to a visitor are located in the island part of the city. The island is fringed by more than 40 beautiful beaches, from small intimate coves to miles-long strands that disappear into the distance. The most famous tourist beaches and resorts are located at the northern end of the island. Canasvieiras, Inglêses and Jureré are among the best known, and a mecca for vacationing Argentines during the Southern summer. To the south, beaches like Armação, Campeche, and Pantano do Sul still remain fishing villages, mostly unvisited by tourists. On the West side of the island facing the mainland you'll find the villages of Santo Antônio de Lisboa and Ribeirão da Ilha which preserve the architecture of the Azores, a heritage dating back to the settlement of area by Azoreans in 1748.

Floripa has the best Carnival in Southern Brazil, hands down, and it has become a "must" for gays from the big Southern cities like São Paulo, Curitiba and Porto Alegre. Floripa's Carnival has parades and samba schools, but also lots of "street carnival," with costumed revelers everywhere in the city's center during the evenings. You'll see some VERY creative drag, if you go! Since it's summer, local residents and the gay crowd head for the day to Praia Mole, directly across the island from the city, on the Atlantic side. Facing the ocean, the gay side of the beach is to the far left, where the Bar do Deca is "our crowd's" gathering point. Clambering over the rocky promontory at the north end of the beach you'll come to the undeveloped and less crowded Praia da Galheta (very reminiscent of Southern California's Zuma Beach) which is clothing-optional. (There are virtually no services at Galheta, so bring bottled water and food with you.) Spend the day "sur-la-plage" then, after a quick "disco nap," you'll be ready to hit the streets downtown for the Carnival madness!

If you have time, there are other places to see in the beautiful state of Santa Catarina. About an hour north of Floripa is Balneário Camboriú, a mini-Copacabana popular with vacationers from Argentina and the Brazilian interior. There are a couple of year-round gay places in Camboriú where guys from Floripa go for a change of scenery! Not very far inland from Floripa are a couple of posh thermal spas at Caldas da Imperatriz, where you can "take the waters" for various ailments or just have a luxurious soak! Farther inland, through spectacular scenery in the mountains, is São Joaquim, the only town in Brazil that predictably gets snow in the winter! The surrounding area is one of Brazil's main sources of temperate fruits like apples and peaches, which can't be grown without a a cold winter for the trees to be dormant.


You may not have heard much about it yet, but the city of Florianopolis is slowly but surely building a reputation as the next jet-set hot spot; something like a combination of St. Tropez, Punta del Este, and the Hamptons—but with lower prices. It’s also increasingly on the radar for gay and lesbian travelers looking for sun, sand, and sophistication without the big-city hassles of places like Rio de Janeiro.
The city of Florianopolis, called Floripa by most Brazilians, is the capital of the state of Santa Catarina, set on a 202-square-mile island just off the coast of southern Brazil. Floripa, however, feels more like a collection of towns, thanks to its 42 beaches, natural beauty, and outdoor activities.

For all the glitzy development I’ve heard about, I begin my visit (accompanied by an array of International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association members who are equally curious about the destination) in the quiet southern part of the island, where nearly half of the terrain is covered with Atlantic rainforest. We hike a secluded path to reach Naufragados Beach, an uncrowded sunny spot where we enjoy the sand and the view of a far-off lighthouse before boarding a small boat to a nearby oyster farm. Oyster farming and fishing continue to be an important source of revenue for locals. This homegrown industry dates back to 1673, when the first Azorean and Portuguese settlers dropped anchor here. Early settlers also left their mark in the charming architecture, which is especially visible in small Azorean settlements like Ribeirão. These small communities are great places to try the local seafood, as I find out during a tasty lunch at Porto de Contrato, a waterfront restaurant with a beautiful view.